RE: NWR: Inspiring speech on libraries

Posting to Autocat

On Mon, 31 Jan 2011 13:04:54 -0800, Daniel CannCasciato wrote:

Of possible interest related to this:

The economic value of the Free Library in Philadelphia
 [ ]

” Findings at a Glance
Findings are summarized below in four areas: Literacy, Workforce Development, Business Development, and Value to Homes and Neighborhoods.
The economic value of the Library services that help Philadelphians learn to read and acquire working skills totals $21.8 million for FY10, comprised of:
* $18.4 million in literacy-related reading & lending
* $2.6 million in literacy related programming
* $818,000 in literacy-related online activities …”

The economic contribution of Wisconsin public libraries to the economy of Wisconsin
[ ]

“Wisconsin public libraries contribute to the Wisconsin economy and are of growing importance to the citizens of the state. The total economic contribution of Wisconsin public libraries to the Wisconsin economy is $753,699,545. The return on investment in library services is $4.06 for each dollar of taxpayer investment.”

While I sympathize with all of this because I am a librarian, these kinds of reports are generated by libraries with the purpose of justifying themselves to their communities, and I am sure they can be analysed in different ways by different people. See, for example, “Thinking ’bout library gate count statistics” by the “Radical Patron” who discussed the obvious problem of conflating gate count with use. (“we had 1.2 billion people coming to our libraries across the nation and checking out 2 billion items.” Of course, the total U.S. population is just over 300 million.

Administrators understand that if the actual analysis showed a negative return on investment in a library, the resulting report would never see the light of day.

Even if everything in these reports were true however, questions would still remain: are the current methods of delivering the information to the populace the most efficient, or could they be improved? So, for example, the Wisconsin statistic of ROI is $4.06 for each dollar invested, a natural reply from an administrator would be: how can we get this to $5? or $10? or $20? Would a system such as NetFlix for library books be an improvement? Does it really make sense today to spend lots of money to buy and store books that are not used? (Just keeping them in proper arrangement is a lot of work) Are there any other possibilities? Today, there certainly are, and in the future with Google Books, much more will be possible.

These are the sorts of uncomfortable questions that, especially in these tough financial times, will be asked and we must have answers ready.